Synesius, Letter 014

Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) was a Neo-Platonic philosopher who became bishop of Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica. He left behind a small corpus of texts that offer much information about daily life in Late Antiquity, and about the christianization of the Roman world.

Letter 14, written in 412, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. It is the sixth of seven letters to Anysius, a Roman general, active in the Cyrenaica in 411-412, for whom Synesius felt great admiration, especially after the soldier had defeated the Libyan nomads. The bishop praised Anysius in the Constitutio and sent him several letters to him: 37, 94, 77, 78, 6 and its sequel 14 (this one), and 59.

Ancient text

Letter 14: A Horse Thief

[1] To Anysius

Thus do sons defend their fathers! I thank you for this. Carnas came to me as a suppliant, and God Himself made the prayer more sacred. How can a priest overlook the arrest of a man, on his own mandate too, during a day of fasting? Whoever, therefore, brought him, did not surrender the fellow, but was deprived of him by force.

[2] Wherefore, if on account of this violence I am to be punished, I have come to the point of showing humanity to those who have wronged me, and having wronged the very people who have done no wrong.